Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Millennium trilogy lists thorough details throughout the series. This storytelling quirk reflects the main character, Lisbeth Salander’s analytical mindset. Larsson never hesitates to interrupt the action with a grocery list or the complete contents of an unimportant drawer. Because for Larsson, it seems like the material things a person chooses have deep meaning. The same is true for Lisbeth Salander.
Before the Billions
The ever-practical Lisbeth doesn’t surround herself with many objects in the initial Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She moves lightly throughout the world. The contents of her apartment are mostly inherited from when she lived there with her mother. So, it’s all overworn, secondhand, and utilitarian. In the present, she spends most of her money on computer equipment and software upgrades, with the occasional expensive trip to the tattoo parlor.
Similarly, her work cubicle is unused and undecorated. (As someone who also chooses to keep personal items out of my public workspaces, I can attest to how much this freaks people out.)
By contrast, the people around her nest. Mikael Blomkvist has spent a lifetime in his apartment, accumulating items as he built a family and a career. The people at both Millennium and Milton Security have personal stuff like mugs, framed photos, and CD collections.
The Vanger family has a historical record, on paper, that stretches across homes and businesses, littered with photographs and personal items. Even the despicable Nils Bjurman (Salander’s exploitative legal guardian) has invested in personal collections and a fancy wardrobe that reflect who he is.
The Luxury Apartment
When Lisbeth Salander hacks her way to obscene wealth (billions with a b), it’s a little surprising that she drops a chunk of her fortune on a secret apartment. She travels, gets breast augmentation, travels some more, then returns home. She turns her old apartment over to Miriam Wu (sometime lover and accepting friend). Then, she goes on an IKEA shopping spree.
Yet, this detail is exactly in line with who she truly is. She hides the most personal parts of her, seeming to almost skim across life (rather than live it). Yet, that doesn’t mean she isn’t there.
Larsson carefully details her purchases.
Lisbeth seems like she wouldn’t use her bedroom for anything besides sleeping and entertaining Miriam Wu. Although the description doesn’t specify the finish on the furniture, I imagine she would choose something dark if it was available. Larsson’s list contains:
- Hemnes Bed Frame
- bedside tables (2)
The style of the bedside tables isn’t noted but, they do have a Hemnes bed frame. It seems like Lisbeth would grab that out of convenience.
Although the author mentions that she bought a bunch of linens, he doesn’t go into detail. For some reason, I imagine something bold and dark with an abstract pattern. Ikea has done variations on that look for years and it seems like it would appeal to Lisbeth’s aesthetic. See the current SKUGGBRÄCKA option.
At first, I was a little surprised that Lisbeth chose sand for the sofa color. However, it was probably a practical choice. It wouldn’t clash with anything and it wouldn’t look dirty over time. Most of the finishes are light — possibly inspired by her beach sabbatical prior to the book’s main events.
- Karlanda Sofas in Sand (2)
- Poang Arm Chairs (5)
- Round Side Tables in Clear Laquer Birch (2 – Listerby seems like a match)
- Svansbo Coffee Table (1)
- Several Lack Occassional Tables
- Ivar Combination Storage units (2)
- Bonde Bookshelves (2)
- TV stand (1)
- Magiker unit with doors (1)
- Pax Nexus 3 door wardrobe (1)
- Small malm bureaus (2)
Interestingly, Lisbeth bought a lot of storage even though she doesn’t own much stuff. Her old home was a small apartment that she inherited from her mother. While it sounded cluttered with practical things from childhood, it didn’t sound like she took any of it with her. Instead, it seemed like Miriam cleaned some of the junk out upon moving into Lisbeth’s old space. And Lisbeth just took her clothes and electronics.
Although Lisbeth has a large kitchen and dining area, the amount of furniture sounds underwhelming. She purchased:
- Rosfors Kitchen Table in beechwood with glass
- Colorful chairs (4)
The type of chair isn’t noted and I had trouble finding something that would match the term colorful. I picked a green option on their site.
In the office, Lisbeth probably focused on organization. She often uses paper files as the starting point for her investigations. Also, it seems like she retains information after cases (sometimes illegally). I can actually imagine her running out of space with just two filing cabinets.
- Galant desk in beech veneer (1)
- A large filing cabinet
- Verksam chair (1)
For the filing cabinet, I imagine that she chose the Galant because it’s the same line as the desk. Also, they are sturdy and practical for holding any heavy survellence equipment she might bring in.
Because Lisbeth’s apartment is a secret, it’s a little odd that she puts anything in the guest bedroom.
- A Single Lillehammer bed
For the guest room, only the bed is noted. Later in the book, it mentions that she left the mattress on it with the wrapper and tag. So, it sounds like she didn’t buy pillows or sheets to actually make it.
As I pictured each of these rooms, I didn’t want to assume Lisbeth has no style whatsoever. She attacks life, including shopping with a task-oriented approach. However, she also has a distinct goth/punk appearance and has invested heavily in artwork on her body. She takes the time to dye her blonde-red hair to black. She has tattoos and piercings. Her electronics are distinctive.
Also, she bought a valuable Elvis memento (a metal sign with “Heartbreak Hotel”) as a Christmas gift for Blomkvist in the first book. (She throws it away when she sees him with another lover.)
I put together some sketches of what her space could look like if she had the time to finish furnishing it. I extrapolated from those details that she would probably lean toward industrial, practical objects with interesting features. If she had time to add artwork, she would probably select objects with symbolic meaning to her (like the tattoo). I imagine she would avoid mirrors (she has low self-esteem and would find them distracting).
Overall, I like to picture her space with a moody, bookish vibe. Someplace where she feels both unbothered and protected.
Rooms with a View
When Blomkvist finally finds her apartment and breaks in, he pities her. He sees the beautiful view, the stunning appliances, and new Ikea furniture. Yet, he notices that it is barely used and 3800 square foot space (worth 25 million kronor or 3.3 million USD) is still empty.
“Blomkvist was standing at that moment by a window, looking out at a magnificent view that stretched far from Gamla Stan towards saltsjon. He felt numb. There was a kitchen off the hall to the right of the front door. Then there was a living room, an office, a bedroom, and even a small guest room that seemed not to have been used. The mattress was still in its plastic wrapper and there were no sheets. All the furniture was brand-new, straight from ikea.”
He can’t find any mementos or even anything to indicate her personal space.
“The arrangement was all out of proportion. Salander had stolen several billion kronor and bought herself an apartment with space for an entire court. But she only need the three rooms she had furnished. The other eighteen rooms were empty.”
This brings Blomkvist to a tender moment.
“Blomkvist felt as if someone were squeezing his heart. He felt that he had to find Salander and hold her close. She would probably bite him if he tried.”
As the reader, you are left to wonder if this is because he understands her or he doesn’t. Does he feel sorry because she thinks she has no interests outside of her sociopathic pursuit of justice? Or does he understand that she is still hiding, even in a space where she should feel safe?
A Place to Work
I’d like to decide it’s the latter. That would mean he truly sees Lisbeth behind her practical, neutral Ikea selections. Lisbeth isn’t ready to create a nest when she buys her first home. She’s still not safe and that feeling is something money can’t buy.
What she needs, however, is just a strong, comfortable desk chair.
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